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Author: Cody Wilcoxson

(Not) Catching Up

I started the 2012 college baseball season with the intention of blogging frequently, then life got in the way. Senior year of college is anything but a cake walk. The last few weeks I have been swamped with baseball,. homework, and trying to find a job for the future.

I have accepted a press officer position with the USA Baseball 18U National Team for this summer, and was a finalist for a sports media relations position in San Antonio that I eventually did not get, so I have some things going on that front, but nothing permanent yet.

As for baseball, man, it has been a roller coaster season. We have had great winning streaks, and tough losing streaks. After climbing the conference and regional rankings over the last month, we dropped six straight games this week against top-ranked competition.

While the momentum we had rolling has been squashed, as a team we are not down, we are not out. With ten games left on our schedule, we are right in the thick of the race to the postseason. If we can get things going in the right direction this weekend against Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, then we have a chance to play bonus baseball.

While I would love to update all of you on the happenings of the season so far, I don’t want to post an entire novel on here in one blog. Instead, I am going to try and write frequently over the next couple of weeks, both updating on our currents days, and sharing stories from the season.

We will see how it goes, I definitely have plenty to do with graduation two weeks away!

Just another Tuesday in Tucson

It is Tuesday, March 6, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona at roughly 5:30p.m. Somewhere at the Kino Sports Park, the Concordia Golden Bears are taking on the Jamestown Jimmies in a college baseball game. With the Golden Bears down 6-3 in the top of the ninth, senior left-hander Cody Wilcoxson enters the game to pitch.

Wilcoxson walked the only batter he faced in his first outing, so this is probably a test appearance to see how he handles himself out there this season. See how he handles the elements, the unknown of the game. See how he handles the unexpected.

Alright, that is enough third person typing about myself. I take the mound, throw my warm-up pitches and get ready for my second appearance of the year.

Strike one. Alright, I’m in the zone. Let’s roll through this inning and get the boys off the field and win it in the bottom of the ninth. Nothing like a good pirated win. I come set with the next pitch. I kick my leg high and drive towards the plate. A fastball on the outer half of the plate. The hitter swings and hits it on the ground toward short. Our shortstop fields it coming in and makes an off balance throw. E6. Well, if they wanted to see how I would handle myself out here, this is a good opportunity.

I come set to face the next hitter. I eye the runner at first. Kick my leg, drive towards the plate. Ball one. Shake it off. I come set again. Look to first. Look home. Look to first. Slide step to home. Strike one. Back on track, a ground ball double play would look real nice right here. I come set again. Slide step. Strike two. Did I say double play? I meant strike out. I come set for my fourth pitch with the batter down 1-2. I kick my leg high and snap off a slider. It starts down the middle of the plate and breaks towards the inside corner. Ball two. Mr. Umpire, debatable, I’d say that was strike three. I’m trying to make a good impression here. Whatever. Here comes another slider. I get my sign, knowing the catcher will call for another slider. I come set. This time I eye up the runner for three seconds before my leg kick. The runner breaks for second. I snap off the slider. The batter takes a giant cut. Swing and a miss. Strike three.

Our third baseman argues that the hitter interfered with the catcher’s ability to throw the runner out at second. I turn and watch Lippy as he aims his argument at the field umpire. When I finally wheel around towards home plate to retrieve the ball to face the next hitter I see the umpire down on a knee. Is this guy Tebowing? Everyone can see his face turning white as our trainer and coaches come to his aid. They lay him on his back. What just happened? We all look at each other not knowing what to do. We can hear bits and pieces of the conversation going on. He is diabetic. His blood sugar must be low.

The coaches give him some water and pop tarts. But, he doesn’t seem to be getting any better. They call 9-1-1. Our coaches and trainer are attending to the umpire as we all clear off the field and into the dugout. It seems like an eternity, but Tucson Fire first responders finally appear at the field. They rush to his aid. As they start to poke, prod, and prepare him to be moved it becomes glaringly obvious, this guy might have low blood sugar, but he is also having a heart attack.

He is finally taken away on a stretcher after a delay of almost a half an hour. I have the opportunity to warm-up again, and they bring in a replacement umpire so we can finish the game with a two-man crew.

After almost 45 minutes, the game resumes, but it definitely has a different feeling now.

I come set to throw the first pitch. I check the runner at second. I throw a fastball on the outer half and the left-handed hitter slaps it through the hole between third base and shortstop. Runners on first and third and one out. Sounds familiar. The next hitter hits a 0-1 slider weakly towards center field. I rush behind the plate to back up the throw to home. Larpy catches it, crow hops, and fires a strike to home plate. The throw hits the glove with the runner still a few steps away. Dead to rights. Jared lunges to tag the runner, who makes an awkward attempt to leap over him.  Jared sticks his mitt right into the runners stomach. Safe. What? Safe? He tagged him five feet from the plate. I still don’t even think he has touched the plate.

Everyone is screaming at the umpire who can’t make a simple call right before his eyes. Guess we are back to a normal baseball game. Now I’m mad. We should have been out of this inning a solid hour ago.

Strike one. Strike two. Ball one. Fastball fouled off into the dugout off the shoulder of an assistant coach. “Should’ve been out of this before someone get’s hurt, blue,” comes from the dugout. Fastball, 82-by-you, strike three. Inning over.

How is that for an audition? An hour-long inning that included a heart attack, a clearly blown call, and a scorching line drive into the dugout, oh, and two strikeouts, just saying.

I’m assuming that is a standard Tuesday in Tucson.

We found out the next morning that our umpire had to be revived twice on his way to the hospital, had open heart surgery to add more stints to the five he already had in his heart, and was placed into an induced coma. I have not heard any news since.

We left the trip 6-2 having dealt with more than our fair share of ‘stuff.” As our coach said to us on the first day of the trip, “Succeeding in baseball is mostly about how well you handle all the ‘stuff’ this game throws at you.” So good, so far.

See you Thursday in the Metrodome.

-Go Golden Bears-

Lazy Sunday Morning

The Golden Bears have made it to Tucson, Arizona. Through planes and vans, we pulled into the Holiday Inn late Friday night. There was just enough time to grab food before retiring to our rooms for the night.

Yesterday, was a day off. Sort of. In college baseball we have one off day a week, as per NCAA rules, but since we have multiple off days down here, we used yesterday to practice. It was great to get out in the sunshine and throw the baseball around. We stretched, went through our respective throwing assignments, took infield–outfield practice, and finally the hitters took on field batting practice for the first time this spring.

Personally, I played catch out to about 120 feet, wanting to stretch out my arm being  the first time outside all year, but not wanting to cause any fatigue for a possible relief appearance in tonight’s double header. Taking infield–outfield outside for the first time took some getting used to. Even though we take I–O almost everyday, it is impossible to simulate the perfect dimensions of a baseball field. It’s great to be outside.

Since practice ended at 2:00 p.m., we did get the chance to spend some quality time by the pool and catch some sun. Some guys better learn to mix in some sunscreen or it will be a long and painful week for them. Oh the fair skin of the Minnesotans.

Last night we had a team meeting to discuss how we want this season to go, and I think everyone that was in the room is now on the same page. We are ready to go, excited to get on the field, and all sharing one goal: win.

Tonight we take on Southwest Minnesota State, an in-conference opponent, at the Kino Sports Complex here in Tucson. While these are not conference games, they do count for in-region rankings, and are definitely important in our pursuit of a championship.

Tonight we are starting our top two guys. They have both taken the ball every weekend the last three years, so we are on good shape on the mound. These are two seven inning games, so they both have an opportunity to work deep into the game and really save our bullpen for the rest of the week, but I know personally, and the rest of the bullpen guys, we are itching to get out there and jump into the action.

We know Southwest Minnesota State will be throwing there best guys as well, so it should be a great battle. It will be a great test of where we stand in the NSIC and in the Central Region.

It has been a lazy Sunday morning. We got up and ate a great breakfast buffet here at the hotel. Because we have a game tonight, there is no reason to head to the pool tonight; therefore, we have spent our morning watching college basketball, National Treasure playing on USA Network, and surfing Facebook and Twitter. I did read a few chapters of “Out of My League” by Dirk Hayhurst. An absolute great baseball book. Night games always make for lazy mornings.

Well, game time is drawing ever closer, it is go time.

Check out www.cugoldenbears.com for game recaps and statistics, or follow me on Twitter (@CWilcoxson) for my own personal post game update.

-Go Golden Bears-

Good bye, MinneSNOWta.

The snow has been falling here in St. Paul off and on for the last couple of days. Originally, the news was calling for the blizzard of the decade. While that did not pan out, we have gotten a couple of inches and plenty of freezing rain to make any baseball player long to leave this state.

Thankfully, the Golden Bears are out of here tomorrow. We are heading to the 70-something sunshine of Tucson, Arizona for 10 days. Everyone is itching to get out of the cold weather, get outside in the sunshine, and get back on the baseball field.

We have been trapped back in doors since we played Missouri Southern State in the Metrodome two weeks ago. Opening day is always exciting.

We dropped both games of the double header, but saw a lot of bright spots. The top four guys on our pitching staff were lights out, and several of our hitters showed some flashes of brilliance at the plate.

Another bright spot was our defense. In 16 innings of play we only made one error. If that is a sign of things to come, we are in great shape for the season.

Our record might be 0-2, but we definitely don’t feel like an 0-2 team. We have 8 games to play in Tucson, and we are ready to get after some other teams.

We start out on Sunday with a double header against in-conference foe Southwest Minnesota State. We then have an off day on Monday before playing six games in five days. It will be a bear on our pitching staff, but if our arms can hold up it will be a great week.

I will update as much as possible down there. You can follow me on Twitter (@CWilcoxson) and I will definitely update on there.

For now, I have to finish packing and get some sleep. The Golden Bears are coming in hot tomorrow!

-Go Golden Bears-

Two Weeks Notice

So, this whole seeing thing is pretty awesome, everyone should try it.

Heading into my final year as a Concordia Golden Bear I am throwing some of the best pitches of my life–and definitely the most strikes of my life. Last Friday I was fighting through some dead arm, not feeling my best, and still managed to throw 65% strikes. I can remember when 65% was reason to celebrate (last year)–things really have changed around this place.

As for the team, we are definitely getting anxious to get after guys in a different color jersey. We are now less than two weeks away from our season opener, February 18 in the Metrodome. Our first opponent is the Missouri Southern State Lions, a team from the traditionally talented MIAA conference.

The fun thing about season openers is everyone has their best players ready to go. You don’t win championships on opening weekend, but it can definitely be a good measuring stick when you have your ace going against theirs. We are definitely excited to put our best foot forward and get the season rolling in the right direction.

On a congratulatory note, senior third baseman Bryan Lippincott was bestowed with several honors in the last couple of weeks. He was named the NSIC Preseason Player of the Year, NCBWA Presason All-American, and placed on the watch list for the Tino Martinez DII Player of the Year. Lippy has been the catalyst of our lineup the last couple of years, and his bat will be one of the keys to our success in 2012.

As the season starts I will start to post more frequently. Right now, we are just itching to get out there and prove that a new era of Golden Bear baseball has begun.

-Go Golden Bears-

Wild Thing, You Make My Heart Sing

Hello College Baseball Fans,

Did you miss me? I am refreshed and ready to break my blogging hiatus. I spent the last few months recharging my blogging batteries, focusing on baseball, school, and trying to find a job when I graduate–which is excitingly/terrifyingly in less than five months. I also enjoyed a much needed break from hearing people say, “Why don’t you go blog about it?” The humor was only there the first 127 times I heard that the last two seasons–then it got kind of old.

However, I had to return to blogging for my senior season, because this journey that has been four years in the making needs an end, and for the #BearClawNation, lets hope it’s a good one.

The last time I wrote we had just finished our roller coaster season, having 19 games cancelled thanks to Mother Nature, and finished one game out of the post season. From there I had a crazy summer, playing town ball in Minnesota and going to the Class A Amateur State tournament with the North Saint Paul Red Roosters, working as the coordinator of baseball information for USA Baseball, and just enjoying the beautiful weather. I did plenty of traveling, going to Cary, N.C. and Omaha, Neb. as part of my internship, I went home to Aurora, Colo. twice, and I visited Clemson, S.C. and Spokane, Wash. to spend time with friends. To say the least, I’ve done a lot of things since we talked last (or, I wrote and you guys read).

After an wonderful Christmas break back in Colorado, I have returned to the arctic temperatures of Saint Paul, Minn., it was -8 this morning with wind chills in the 20′s below zero. Luckily, we have the Concordia Dome at Sea Foam Stadium (or simply, the Foam Dome) to start our winter practice this year. We started Monday, and are already deep into this thing. Pitching, hitting, and team defense are in full swing for the Golden Bears as we prepare for a February 18 date with Missouri Southern State in the Metrodome.

Two major changes have happened for my baseball career since my last post. First, our team has changed. Not just the players, but the attitude that everyone has around the locker room, the weight room, and most importantly, the field. We are a team this year. We have bonded both on and off the field. We are the Bear Claw Nation. This is the best “team” I have ever been a part of. Not just in the sense of a band of brothers, which we have become, but also talent, passion, and desire. Everyone on this team wants it as bad as the guy standing next to him–it is awesome. The second change is a personal one. Did you notice the title of this post? Hi, I’m Rick Vaughn.

Yes, I did just call myself Charlie Sheen’s penal league fireballer in  the movie Major League (1989). Okay, so you might have to take 15 mph off the fast ball, and I certainly don’t have that awful haircut, but we now share a similar story line. No, I didn’t go to prison. I’ll explain. Over the past couple of seasons my production on the mound has seen plenty of ups and downs, and mostly because of walks. Last season I led the team in strikeouts per nine innings and walks per nine innings–sounds like Rick Vaughn, right? Well, this winter break I met with an optometrist and apparently I need some minor vision correction–sounds like Rick Vaughn, right? My first bullpen with my new specs on was a success: 75% strikes. Now, I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, but I am definitely believing that I’m on to something. I am excited to see my progress and all the hard work I’ve put in this off season combined with a little better eye sight. Oh, and I get fitted for contacts on Monday, so I won’t be rocking rec specs on the diamond this spring.

My vision is clearer, my focus is sharper, and my team is the best guys I have ever been around. I can’t wait to get the 2012 college baseball season, my senior season, started, because great things are coming from the hard work that the Golden Bears have put in.

–Go Golden Bears–

Falling Just Short

                When I last blogged I was preparing for my first start as a Concordia Golden Bear, and nobody was wondering if I was recently in Missouri. Sitting in fifth place in the conference standings, we had won seven of our last eight contests. Things were looking good.

                We headed to Winona, Minn. for a mid-week conference double-header with Winona State University. At the time, the Warriors were the top-ranked team in the NSIC.

                We drove down that morning, passing snow on the highway as we drove–just a typical April in Minnesota. I listened to music and tried to relax as I mentally prepared for my start.

                After sitting through batting practice, I stared to get warmed up for the game. Jogs to the outfield, leg-kicks, toe-touches, high-knees, butt-kicks, shuffles, and carioca, and I was loose.

                After long-tossing and throwing in the bullpen I was ready to go. I was sharp in the bullpen throwing everything for strikes, with good movement and velocity.

                Troy DuBay led off the top of the first inning with a single, but was out on a fielder’s choice by the next hitter. Our three and four hitters both flied out to end the inning.

                I took the mound for my first start as a Golden Bear. My first pitch of the game was a fastball to preseason All-American outfielder Tony Mueller for strike one. I followed that with another located fastball to bring the count to 0-2. After two consecutive pitches out of the zone made the count 2-2, the catcher called for an inside fastball. I delivered the pitch perfectly on the hands of the right-handed hitting Mueller, who made contact just above the handle. The ball chopped straight into the ground and took a high bounce to the first base side of the pitcher’s mound. The ball fell out of my reach as the speedy runner made it safely to first for an infield single.

                With no outs and a runner on first, the catcher called for a throw-over to first base. I came set, came up into my leg kick, and fired the ball over the first baseman’s head. The runner advanced to second base and I was charged with a throwing error.

                I walked the next two hitters to load the bases with no outs. I recorded my only out of the game against the clean-up hitter, striking him out looking on a 3-2 fastball. The next hitter singled to centerfield, and the flood gates open.

                I faced nine hitters, giving up eight runs on three hits and five walks. The strike out was the only out I recorded before being pulled in favor of righty Zach Goodwin. Goodwin had his best outing of the season, allowing just one earned run over four solid innings of work.

                Winona scored nine runs in the first inning, and won 12-5.

                Needing a big-time performance, we sent senior stopper Nick Anderson to the mound in game two. Anderson delivered an unbelievable performance to bring life back into the Golden Bears.

                Anderson threw 144 pitches in a complete game effort. He scattered seven hits and allowed only one earned run in a gutsy 3-2 victory. Junior outfielder Kris Long drove in the winning singling to left field in the ninth inning.

                The split kept us in fifth place in the conference standings and helped our regional consideration with a victory over a top-ranked opponent.

                The following day we hosted Wayne State College for a four-game conference weekend series. The games were played on Friday and Saturday because of Easter, meaning we had six games in three days. To make things even more interesting, ace Ben Lemke was scratched from his start against Wayne State because of a pulled oblique.

                Chris Peterson moved up to take the ball in place of Lemke. Petey delivered a solid outing, but we could not get our offense going. We fell to the Wildcats 7 to 3 in game one of the weekend series. Peterson threw all seven innings to give our depleted bullpen a rest.

                In game two, we turned to sophomore reliever Griff Kilber for a spot start. Kilber gave his best performance of the year taking a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning. After loading the bases with no outs, Kilber was taken out of the game. With the bullpen thin, I was given the ball despite the rough outing just 24 hours before.

                Head coach Lunch McKenzie told me to not think about yesterday, throw strikes, and get this first hitter to hit a ground ball to the first baseman for a 3-2-4 double play and hold the lead.

                I was confident in spite of my previous outing. On the third pitch of the at-bat the hitter bounced a ball towards the first baseman, it appeared as if I had done exactly what Lunch asked. But, just as redshirt freshman Elliot Powell was about to scoop up the ball and fire home, the ball took a giant hop off the infield lip and over his head into right field. Instead of collecting two outs on one play, Wayne State scored two runs to tie the game.

                The next batter grounded out to the first baseman, this time the ball didn’t take any crazy bounces, but another run scored on the play to make the score 5-4 Wildcats. After a double, a walk, and an error, I finally got the inning’s tenth hitter to strike out swinging to end the frame.

                The damage was done as the Wildcats held a 6-4 lead. There would only be one more base runner the rest of the game as I retired the Wildcats 1-2-3 in each of the last two innings, but our offense could only muster one hit the rest of the way as Wayne State capped off a comeback victory.

                We came back the next morning ready to fight the Wildcats and get our momentum back. We went with freshman starter Adam Kramer. He took a 5 to 4 lead into the sixth inning of a seven inning contest before Wayne State struck again. After the wildcats rallied to take the lead, we turned to Nick Anderson on short-rest. The Wildcats were able to figure out the tired righty as they scored eight runs in the inning to take a commanding 12 to 5 lead.

                With another game left to play that afternoon and needing to save what was left of our bullpen, Lunch again turned to me in the seventh. After striking out the first batter of the inning, things came apart for the defense. The next hitter reached on an error, followed by an infield single, a home run, another single, and another error. Finally, the last two hitters bounced ground ball outs to end the inning.

                We lost game three of the series 16 to 6, before losing game four 6 to 3 and being swept in a weekend series for the first time all season.

                I threw in all three days of competition that week. On the week, I threw four innings, gave up 11 earned runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking seven. Not very good stats, but I was proud of the way I battled back. After the day one disaster, I was able to put up solid stats against Wayne State; with the WSC totals reading: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO.

                We put the sweep behind us and headed to Sioux Falls, S. D. for a mid-week double-header with Augusta College, another top-ranked team in the conference.

                The games followed an almost identical path of the week before. This time our starter gave up eight runs in the second inning on five walks, and Auggie cruised to a 9 to 3 victory.

                Once again we turned to Anderson when we needed a big victory. As always, he delivered. This time Anderson threw 160 pitches as he authored a ten-inning complete game victory over Auggie 7 to 6. Anderson battled out of big situations all day, including a lead-off double in the bottom of the tenth inning. Again, he led us to another big mid-week split with a top-ranked team from our conference.

                The schedule seemed to look favorable for us as the tenth ranked team in the conference headed to St. Paul for a conference weekend series. If we could sweep all four games we would balance out the four losses to Wayne State and be back to a secure position in the standings.

                However, Mother Nature struck again. After sweeping Northern State in day one, 5-0 and 9-5 the rain began to fall. The rest of the series was rained out, and we would not have the chance to get anymore wins.

                That meant we were in sixth place going into the final week of the season, with Minnesota-Duluth and Upper Iowa right on our tails. Luckily, we controlled our own destiny as Minnesota-Duluth came to St. Paul for a mid-week double-header.

                We had ace Ben Lemke back on the mound for game one against the visiting Bulldogs. Lemke delivered; tossing a complete-game and allowing just one unearned run on seven hits. We had just enough offense winning 3 to 1.

                The win set up a chance to sweep the double-header and bury the Bulldogs for good. Freshman Adam Kramer gave his best start of the season allowing just one earned run over 6.1 innings, but the Bulldogs pitching staff was a little better. They held the Golden Bear offense to just one run, and flipped the game one score holding on for a 3-1 victory.

                The Golden Bear offense didn’t go down without a fight. We loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning before J.T. Schneider and Troy DuBay both hit line drives into the gloves of outfielders, DuBay’s coming on the 12th pitch of his at-bat.

                The loss opened the door for the Bulldogs to catch us in the standings. They hosted Minnesota-Crookston for a four game weekend series. Crookston holding an 0-35 record heading into the weekend, while we had a home-home weekend series with the region’s top-ranked team and #13 nationally St. Cloud State.

                We had three tightly contested games, but the Huskies broke the score open in crucial moments. We lost all three before Mother Nature cancelled the fourth game of the series, the 19th weather related cancellation of the season.

                Meanwhile, the Bulldogs took care of Crookston four times, to jump us in the standings and steal the sixth spot in the NSIC Tournament. We finished one game out of the tournament for the second time in three years.

                We were in tournament qualifying position every day of the season, only falling out of it on the final Sunday of the regular season.

                We said goodbye to our three seniors following the game: Sam Fagely, a right fielder from Mahtomedi, Minn. (2011 NSIC Gold-Glove Team); Jon Stockton, a left fielder from Oakdale, Minn. (2011 Second-Team NSIC All-Conference); and pitcher Nick Anderson from Plymouth, Minnesota.

                On the last day of the season, Fagely recorded his 101st career hit and Stockton recorded his 101st career walk (Concordia record). Anderson finished sixth on the all-time wins list with 20 and second on the all-time saves list with 11.

                Fortunately for me, I don’t have to say goodbye to Fagely or Stockton as I am playing summer ball with both of them on the North St. Paul Roosters.

                As for my 2011 season, it was an improvement over my 2010 campaign. I had many bright spots. I tied for second on the team in appearances (8), led the team in strikeouts per nine innings (11.85), and had an 18-13 K-to-BB ratio.

                As a team we only played 34 of our 53 scheduled games. Eight of the 19 cancellations came against the ninth, tenth, and eleventh ranked teams in the conference standings. Against the bottom five teams in the conference we finished 10-0 with eight cancellations.

                Now we turn to next year, my senior year, and likely last as a baseball player. We return all four weekend starters, and a staff that accounted for 222.2 innings this season. We lose just two position players—both key starters—but have several young players that played well this season.

                We have to wait patiently during the June MLB draft as third baseman Bryan Lippincott may hear his name called, we all hope that he returns to play his senior season with us. We have a lot of pieces returning, especially Lippincott, that can help us return to the top of the NSIC next year.

                The NSIC should be well represented in next month’s draft as several players were scouted all season. Also of personal interest to me, high school summer teammate Jarod Berggren of the University of Northern Colorado is expected to be an early round pick, as is an outfielder from my high school (Regis Jesuit (CO)) Conor McKay.

                It was a roller coaster ride of a season, but I made memories, friendships, and pitched in big moments. It was a year I will never forget, and I hope to improve as a person and a player all summer before returning to school next fall and trying to win the 2012 NSIC Championship.

                I also would like to thank Nick and the College Baseball Lineup staff for giving me to the chance to blog again this year, and also making sure everyone knew that I was not the Cody Wilcoxson involved with the shooting in Missouri. Good looking out guys!

-Go Golden Bears-

Sweep, Swept, Sweep, Split, SWEEP!, Start?

The title speaks for its self, it has been crazy baseball in the upper Midwest since my last blog post. I apologize for the large gap between blogs, we had a busy schedule of games and my computer got a virus. But that is all fixed and I’m back to blogging!

When I last left off we were preparing to play D3 cross-town foe Hamline University. Despite the poor weather being predicted we got the night time double header in under the lights. It was a wild couple of games. Bundled up on the bench I watched 17 innings of great college baseball.

Game one saw staff ace Ben Lemke do what he does best, a complete game three-hit performance, holding Hamline to just one unearned over the seven innings while striking out seven. We scored two runs in the first inning, and that was all Lem would need as we won 2 to 1.

Game two was another thrilling contest like we’ve had all season. Andy Fagely threw six innings in relief, striking out eight to earn a victory out of the bullpen. The game would go ten innings (it was originally scheduled for seven). Down 2 to 1 in the bottom of the tenth inning the top of our order rallied. Troy DuBay singled to left to start the inning. Kris Long sacrificed him over to put a runner in scoring position with one out. Bryan Lippincott wasted no time, driving an RBI single to left on the second pitch of his at-bat. Clean up man Jon Stockton battled deep into his at-bat before hitting a walk-off RBI double off the left field fence for a walk-off victory. For the second time this season we mobbed a teammate after completing a come-from-behind walk-off victory.

Sweep of Hamline.

The following Wednesday we hosted Minnesota State-Mankato. They have been in the College Baseball Lineup D2 Top 30 all season. It was a tough opponent to start our conference season.

The Mavericks brought there A-game throwing their top two starters and swinging hot bats. They put up 11 runs in game one, while lefty Danny Miller’s only blemish was a fourth inning homerun to Lippincott. Mankato took it to us 11 to 1.

Game two followed a similar story line. With the reigning Central Region pitcher of the year toeing the rubber Mankato had a similar dominating performance. Blake Schwartz threw six innings giving up two runs for the Mavericks. On our side senior starter Nick Anderson gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings.

With one out in the fifth inning I made my fourth appearance of the season. The first batter I faced grounded a high chopper to shortstop for an RBI groundout. With two outs and no one out I struck out the leadoff hitter to end the inning.

I went back out for the sixth inning. After getting the first hitter down 0-2, I missed a spot with a fastball and gave up a double. The next batter flied out to right, but the runner tagged from second base and advanced on the play. The third batter of the inning hit a sacrifice fly to right field to make it two outs with no one on and one run scored.

The next hitter hit a ground ball to second base, but our second baseman couldn’t handle it and he reached on an error. From there the wheels fell off a little bit. The next batter doubled making it second and third with two outs. After getting the next hitter to a 2-2 count I induced another ground ball that was again mishandled allowing the two runners to score unearned. The first pitch to the next batter would be a belt high fastball tattooed over the left field fence for a two run homerun. The inning would finally come to an end when the last batter grounded out to shortstop.

Although I felt like I threw the ball well, it was still a disappointing outing and game for the Golden Bears. The final tally would be 12 to 2 in favor of Mankato.

Swept by Minnesota State Mankato.

We didn’t have much time to dwell on the blowouts as we left less than 48 hours later for a weekend conference series with Bemidji State. Having just lost two games it was important to have a big weekend in Bemidji. We drove up Friday night to prepare for the Saturday and Sunday double headers.

We came out swinging in game one, determined to get the bats going. Eight of our hitters had multiple hits in the game including a 4 for 5 performance from Lippincott. Lippincott would hit his second homerun of the year, senior Sam Fagely also went deep as part of the 23 hits collected by our lineup. Lemke cruised on the mound to a second straight complete game victory as we took game one 17 to 7.

Game two was a different story. The game went back and forth through ten innings as we again needed extra frames to beat an opponent. Tied 3 to 3 in the top of the tenth the Concordia bats came back alive scoring four runs. BSU battled back to make it interesting scoring two runs in the bottom of the tenth before senior reliever Nick Anderson struck out the last two batters to end the game with a 7 to 5 victory.

The next morning we woke up to pouring rain. The games were cancelled and we made the drive back to the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, I was the probable starting pitcher for one of the games on Sunday, making that my second rained out start of the season.

Sweep of Bemidji State.

Having the day off on Sunday set up our pitching for a key mid-week double header with the Peacocks of Upper Iowa. That allowed us to have normal weekend starters Adam Kramer and Andy Fagely throw the twinbill.

The freshman Kramer gave us a solid outing in the first game throwing four innings. Super reliever Nick Anderson would throw the final four innings out of the pen giving up no runs while punching out two. In typical 2011 CU fashion we went to extra innings. In the extra frame we pushed across three runs to take and 8 to 5 lead. In the bottom of the inning Nick Anderson shut the door securing his second straight relief victory.

Upper Iowa got some hot pitching in game two, and we could not seem to get the bats going. Matt Treybig stifled our offense allowing just two runs on five hits in seven impressive innings.

Down 7 to 2 in the sixth inning I made my fifth appearance of the season. After punching out the first hitter, I got a 6-3 groundout to make it two outs with no one on. The next hitter singled to left field. A HBP and a walk loaded the bases before a three pitch strikeout finished off the scoreless frame.

Our bats couldn’t heat up in the top of the seventh and Upper Iowa took game two.

After the game I was able to spend a few minutes talking to Peacocks assistant coach Timm Pint. Coach Pint was the interim head coach at the University of North Dakota for a season, and was the man that offered me my scholarship there. He gave me the chance to play division one baseball and it was nice to spend a minute catching up with him.

Split with Upper Iowa.

We headed north to the Twin Cities for a couple days off. We would host the University of Mary (N.D.) for a weekend conference series on Sunday and Monday, the games were pushed back a day to accommodate for bad weather in the area.

We put together an impressive weekend of baseball. All four of our starting pitchers would win their start and Nick Anderson would pick up three consecutive saves to start the weekend. Our bats were alive all weekend as we scored 32 runs over the two days. The weekend was capped with Andy Fagely’s complete game 110 pitch performance to complete the sweep. Lippincott hit his fifth homerun of the season in the series finale as well.

It is extremely tough to complete a four game sweep no matter who the opponent is, and Mary had some impressive pitching performances.

SWEEP of Mary.

That brings us to now. We are riding high having gone 9-3 since returning to Minnesota. We have one of the toughest weeks possible coming up. Tomorrow we head to Winona State for a mid-week double header. Friday and Saturday we play our weekend series at home against Wayne State. We have Sunday and Monday off to celebrate Easter with our families before playing a conference mid-week double header in South Dakota against Augustana College on Tuesday.

I am scheduled to start game one of tomorrow’s double header, my first start since my freshman year of college, and my first start in a Golden Bear uniform. I am very excited and very ready.

In preparation for this start I spent some time on the phone with some friends from home, and they would appreciate a shout out on the blog: Alex Cusick, Spencer Jackson, Vince Rouse, and Case Donovan.

Shout-outs:

As for baseball shout outs, a very deserved shout out goes to high school teammate Ty Blach. Ty, a sophomore lefty at Creighton University threw the first ever pitch at the brand new TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha, Neb. In front of 22, 197 fans Ty got the Nebraska hitter to pop out to right field. Congrats to Ty for becoming the answer to a trivia question.

 First Pitch at TD Ameritrade

Back to the Great Outdoors (Hopefully)

It has been a couple of weeks since my last blog post, and that is because it has been a couple weeks since our last game. The team returned home from Florida to piles of snow and unplayable fields.

We went back to practicing in the Concordia Dome and our indoor “Pole Barn” facility. Pitchers have gotten plenty of work in facing our hitters, and we have spent countless hours working on ground balls and PFP’s (Pitcher fielding practice).

The Golden Bears were all set to get back outside against in-conference foe Southwest Minnesota State last week in Marshall, Minn. Due to unplayable conditions the games were then moved to a turf field at Minnetonka High School. But another snow storm in the twin cities area led to yet another schedule change. The games were then set to be played on Monday and Tuesday in Sioux City, Iowa, but a snowstorm in the Sioux City area eventually doomed the series, and the games were cancelled with us never leaving campus.

Barnes Field on March 30th

This put us back inside for another week of practice, but the temperatures in St. Paul started to rise. We spent Wednesday working to clear snow off the field in preparation for our upcoming home opener Wednesday, March 6 against Minnesota State, Mankato. The pictures show the field covered in snow, but through hard work by the coaches and players we managed to clear the field. As of this afternoon there was only a little bit of snow left in front of the first base dugout.

We are now scheduled to play our first games in Minnesota against Hamline University tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m. at Veterans Field at Minnetonka High School. We are hoping the weather cooperates and we are able to get the games in under the lights. Our weekend starters should split the Sunday double header to prepare for next week’s conference weekend series against Bemidji State.

Head coach Lunch McKenzie using a blow torch on the ice

Assuming the weather holds on all week we should host Minnesota State, Mankato for the 2011 home opener at 1:30 p.m. next Wednesday. With that double header being a mid-week game, I could potentially get a start, but who knows how the weather will hold up, and how the pitching rotation will play out. I, and the rest of the pitching staff, have to stay ready to get out there and throw strikes at any time.

The weather of the upper Midwest is always tough on the college baseball season, but it appears if spring is starting to move into Minnesota, and we should start getting our games in.

After the Hamline games tomorrow, we will have all conference games the rest of the way to decide who goes to the NSIC tournament and also the NCAA regional. Even without having played since Florida, we moved up to 8th in the latest NCBWA Central regional poll.

Hopefully the next blog will be filled with game highlights!

-Go Golden Bears-

The Week of the Guest Appearances

It has been a wild week for the Concordia Golden Bears, including many celebrity guest appearances to close out our spring break trip to Florida.

Our new friend "Juan Carlos"

When I last left off we were heading into our off day in Florida, which meant the Phillies-Tigers spring training game in Lakeland, Fla. Insert first guest appearance, J.C. Romero. Our team took our spots just behind the left field fence at Joker Marchant Stadium as the Phillies were taking batting practice. As is custom, the pitchers were doing their running in the outfield, this included the previous mentioned J.C. Romero, whom our pitching staff would later address as “Juan Carlos” as we engaged him in conversation. Some of our more outgoing players started to yell to Juan Carlos if he remembered his times with the Minnesota Twins. Juan Carlos responding by saying in a thick Latin accent, “I never forget them.” That was all the Golden Bears needed to spend the next half hour asking questions of the left-hander as he caught fly balls. The Q&A would not be complete without one of our players continuously asking, “Dude, can I get that glove?”

Ganz played 3rd baseman Deke in Bull Durham

The sunshine of the spring training game would not last, as a prophetic young Danny Gans a.k.a Deke in Bull Durham showed up with, “We need a rain out.” The day after the spring training game I was scheduled to make my first college start in two seasons since my freshman year at North Dakota. As luck would have it we woke up a down pour, the game cancelled due to rain. Little did we know that the rain out would play a role later on in our trip.

After a second consecutive day off, the second being a little less sunny and a little less fun, we were set to put back on the uniforms against Northwood (Mich.) University. We were feeling confident going into the game with ace Ben Lemke on the mound. Up 3-2 in the top of the second inning Lemke strained a muscle in his leg and had to be removed from the game. As luck would have it, since I had not started the day before I was available to make a long relief appearance and eat up some innings. I would pitch 3.1 innings in the contest to get us into the 5th inning. Tied 5-5 in the 5th things started to come apart a little bit. With one out and nobody on base they were able to drop down a perfectly placed bunt for a single. After a walk to make it 1st and 2nd with one out, a single plated a run for Northwood, and another walk and another single later Northwood had a 7-5 lead with the bases loaded. I was removed from the game having kept us in it through five. Four consecutive hits later and Northwood had a commanding 13-5 lead. Insert Keifer Sutherland, okay he is not really Keifer, but freshman T.J. Obermyer (who goes by pretty much any name but T.J.). Keifer was sent in to eat up some innings and save our bullpen for the following day. He would throw two solid innings as Northwood would push their lead to 15-5. Just three outs from being run-ruled suddenly, Our Bats showed up. Over the final three innings we were able to push across 11 runs on nine hits for what might be the most dramatic comeback in the history of Concordia baseball. Redshirt freshman Drew Turk who came in as a defensive replacement in the 8th inning would embody Jim Edmonds as he made a full extension superman catch to send the game into the bottom of the ninth with the score 15-12 Northwood.

Real Keifer

Fake Keifer

Eight batters after Bryan Lippincott reached on an error to start the 9th inning, sophomore J.T. Schneider walked on four pitches to plate the winning run in walk-off walk fashion. He was promptly mobbed as he touched first base. It was great to be on the other side of a walk-off. It was one of the most exhilarating up-and-down games I have ever been a part of.

Edmonds has nothing on Drew Turk

The momentum did not stop there. The bats decided to hang around the next day against Minnesota, Crookston as we would slug out 41 runs on 37 hits in the double header. Sophomore Andy Fagely toed the rubber in game one against Crookston. He would be flawless into the 4th inning before none other than Jim Joyce showed up. A soft roller towards our second baseman was smoothly fielded and flipped to our first baseman beating the runner by what appeared to be a solid step and a half. The field umpire flung his hands to the side and yelled safe, the dugout erupted in disagreement. Andy would retire the next six hitters before giving up a pair of singles in both the 6th and 7th innings. While Andy ended up getting credit for a 5-hit complete game 68-pitch shutout performance, had the runner been called out he would have been just five outs from the first DII-era perfect game in Concordia history by the time he surrendered a hit.

The infamous Jim Joyce

In game two Crookston came out swinging, putting up three runs in the first inning, before Concordia struck back for 21 unanswered runs. In the last 18 innings of baseball in Florida we outscored our opponents 52-3. We ended the trip 4-3 with a four game winning streak to carry in to conference play. Our coaches and players found out a lot about the team we have this year, and we are confident we can compete.

Our solid play led to one more guest appearance, The Concordia, St. Paul Golden Bears appearing 10th in the NCBWA Central Regional Poll, but we are going to try and make that a more permanent role. We will continue our season with our first conference series March 26-27 against Southwest Minnesota State.

-Go Golden Bears-

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